Valley tallies storm toll

Clean-up continues from Friday’s double shot of storms

by ERIK SANDIN and AVERY CROPP
STILLWATER GAZETTE

A man checks out tree blown over in a Bayport yard near Bethlehem Lutheran Church this weekend. Two powerful thunderstorms — one early Friday morning, the other Friday evening — felled trees and cut power to many St. Croix Valley residents. Xcel Energy Co. crews spent the weekend working to restore power throughout the Valley and the greater Twin Cities area. (Photo Courtesy of Brad Dixon)

A man checks out tree blown over in a Bayport yard near Bethlehem Lutheran Church this weekend. Two powerful thunderstorms — one early Friday morning, the other Friday evening — felled trees and cut power to many St. Croix Valley residents. Xcel Energy Co. crews spent the weekend working to restore power throughout the Valley and the greater Twin Cities area. (Photo Courtesy of Brad Dixon)

The sound of the wind during Friday night’s storm is what Rachel Friberg of Bayport remembers. She never heard the large ash tree in her neighbor’s yard come down.

“The wind was so loud I couldn’t even hear the tree (fall),” she said Tuesday afternoon. “It was just a roar of wind. The wind was just roaring it was so loud. It was crazy. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Although Friberg said her home escaped damage from Friday night’s storm, many other St. Croix Valley residents have spent the last four days cleaning up trees damaged or uprooted by storm winds.

Meanwhile, officials in several cities continue assessing damage and clean-up costs associated with Friday’s two storms that swept through the Valley. The first system roared through about 4 a.m. Friday, but caused little reported damage in the Valley. It was Friday evening’s storm that apparently caused the most damage and power outages in the region.

“We’re still going through and assessing,” said Alyssa MacLeod, Lake Elmo communications director. “We’re going to tackle the neighborhoods with more extensive damage.”

“We’re going to be cleaning and chipping through the week,” said Bayport Public Works Director Mel Horak. “We had lots of trees uprooted.”

Oak Park Heights Public Works Director Andy Kegley told the council at its meeting Tuesday it could cost the city an estimated $20,000 to clean trees and brush left by the storm. Oak Park Heights has contracted with St. Croix Tree Service to pick up downed trees and brush left at the curb by residents.

“Staff is still accounting for all its (storm-related) costs,” said City Administrator Eric Johnson.

As residents were cleaning up, Xcel Energy crews worked to restore power outages in the Valley caused by the storm. Xcel estimates more than 600,000 metro area residents lost power from Friday’s storms. Xcel officials said power should be restored by this afternoon at the latest.

“The east metro is wrapping up more quickly than the west metro. There was more damage in the west metro than the east metro,” said Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen. “The weather thankfully is cooperating today and we’re using every available resource to get our customers back online,”

Hoen said the number of customers who lost power from the storms might be the largest in the company’s history.

“We haven’t verified that but it’s one of the biggest for sure,” Hoen said. He added that crews have been working non-stop over the weekend.

Horak said power outages were reported in Bayport from the Friday morning and evening storms. He added that power was restored in the city by Sunday evening.

MacLeod said a few houses on the northwest side of Lake Elmo lake were without power Monday, but all homes in the city had power restored.

Although no storm-related injuries were reported, some structures were damaged by falling trees. Several people reported many old-growth trees were toppled by the storm winds.

John Oldendorf of Lake Elmo lives near Discovery Crossing, a neighborhood he said took “a big hit” from the storm. He added that his neighborhood also suffered downed trees.

“My neighbor had a 100-year-old oak that dropped on his utility building,” he said. “There are some big trees down in our area, some big pines and oaks.”

Oldendorf said the damage in his neighborhood was caused by the Friday evening storm.
“It was all on Friday night. We had 50 to 70 mph winds. It was just blowing and the rain,” he said.

Horak said Bayport lost an estimated 20 trees on city property from Friday evening’s storm.

“I think probably almost 10 mature, good-sized trees were lost in Lakeside Park. We lost 10 boulevard trees,” he said.

As Friberg and her neighbors in the 400 block of Fifth Street in Bayport watched a city crew remove the uprooted ash tree at Dane’s Place, they said the Friday night storm was one of the worst they could remember in years.

“I was standing looking out from our deck and thinking, this isn’t much of a storm,” Friberg said. “This spruce behind us, I saw it bend in half and snap back.

“The tornado siren went off a good 20 minutes before anything hit,” she added. “We were watching the news and not really paying attention to it.”

“We were lucky. Our neighbors had a tree resting on the back of their house,” said Joel Peterson, who lives about one block east of Dane’s Place. “This is the most damage we’ve seen in Bayport for about nine years.”

In Oak Park Heights, officials called the city’s response to the storm “effective and timely,” adding that most blocked city streets were opened by Saturday afternoon.
“Communication was the best it could be with something like this,” Johnson said.
“Everyone stayed safe and worked well together.”

The Oak Park Heights City Council Tuesday agreed to waive city building permit fees for any storm-related repairs to damaged homes.

MacLeod said Lake Elmo residents are being asked to move fallen trees and brush to street rights-of-way for pick-up by city crews. Residents should separate brush into two piles — brush 6 inches in diameter or less and larger than 6 inches in diameter, she added.

“Crews are working methodically through our neighborhoods — starting with those hardest hit and where there are life-safety concerns,” MacLeod said. “The Lake Elmo Fire Department is currently evaluating Lake Elmo neighborhoods for damage, and an assessment will be posted online at www.lakeelmo.org later today.”

MacLeod said city officials said it could take up to four weeks to remove all storm debris.

Stillwater Director of Public Works Shawn Sanders said the city did not suffer a lot of damage from the storms.

“Not a whole lot of trees fell down and there wasn’t much as far as city work involved. Right now we’re just getting a lot of calls from people with downed trees asking us to pick up some branches,” he said.

Residents who need some help with pick-ups in Stillwater are encouraged to call the Stillwater Public Works office at 651-275-4100.

Clean-up efforts could be affected by more storms forecast today and tonight. The NWS said showers and thunderstorms are possible between noon and 9 p.m. today. Thursday is forecast to be sunny and warm with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the low 60s.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com.

 

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